Gun Review: Ruger LCR .357 Magnum Revolver

Taming the Beast! A Featherweight .357 Magnum.

Suggested Retail Price: $575.00 www.ruger.com

 

The Good The Bad The Ugly Our Rating
This is a shootable gun. The polymer frame soaks up some of the potentially aggressive recoil in this ultra-light pocket cannon. We wish that a little more attention was paid to polish and finish of some of the polymer frame areas – especially inside the trigger guard. Our 158 grain .357 Magnum handloads were quite, umm, interesting in this gun. To be expected of course. 3 Nuns Four Nuns!
We gave the LCR 4 Nuns for the simple fact that it has been designed to actually shoot what its chambered for. Something that not all lightweight snubbies can claim.

 

Ruger LCR .357 Magnum Revolver

The Ruger LCR .357 is a beast tamed.

Hello boys and girls, and welcome to Physics Happy Fun Festival with My Gun Culture.

Today we’re going to see what it feels like to fire a .357 magnum out of an ultra-light handgun.

The Ruger LCR 357 launches a projectile at nearly one and a half times the speed of sound, yet weighs just 17 ounces. (Tweet This)

While physics ‘R physics and pesky little concepts like ‘equal and opposite reactions’ still apply, both gun and ammunition manufacturers can perform some nifty tricks to minimize the subjective measure of felt recoil. Yes, the force headed back towards your face is still the same, but if more of it is dampened by the gun, and the power curve of that little firestorm in the cartridge is lengthened a bit, then it can feel somewhat better to the one doing the launching. Or at least minimize blunt-force trauma. Blunt-force trauma is a big deal after all. We saw it on CSI Miami.

First Impressions of the Ruger LCR .357 Magnum

The stand out feature of the Ruger LCR .357 is shootability.

You can actually shoot .357 magnum loads out of this gun. And live to tell about it.

We think it’s some type of voodoo magic related the combination of the polymer frame flexiness and the Hogue Tamer factory installed grip. The other factor we noticed about full power .357 magnum load shootability was choice of ammunition. No, we’re not talking about different bullet weights and velocities. We’re talking about more voodoo magic related to powder selection, burn efficiency, and probably warp drive technology. The LCR did in fact appear to be surrounded by a bubble of normal space-time with minimal traces of anti-matter

Ruger LCR .357 Magnum Hogue Tamer Grip

The combination of one piece Hogue Tamer grip and polymer frame makes a noticeable difference in perceived recoil.

The LCR is fitted with a one-piece Hogue Tamer grip that is firmly affixed to the polymer frame by a single screw in the bottom of the grip – well out of the way unless you use the, ummm, cup and saucer hold. Friends don’t let friends shoot with cup and saucer holds anyway. The Hogue Tamer is firm where it needs to be firm and squishy where it needs to be squishy. The front, sides, and lower half of the backstrap are firm rubber with minimal give. However, there is a section at the top of the backstrap that is quite mushy – and it’s right where the web of your hand between your thumb and index finger falls. We found this to make a BIG difference in comfort and we suspect it is entirely by design. A small detail that makes a big difference. As a side note, the one piece grip has a cutout on the left side which allows unobstructed ejection of empty brass and easy reloading with a speed strip or speed loader.

Just the Specs Ma’am…

  • .357 Magnum caliber
  • 5 round fluted cylinder
  • Barrel length: 1.875”
  • Stainless steel barrel
  • Finish: Blackened stainless steel and black polymer
  • Twist: 1:16”
  • Weight: 17.10 oz
  • Overall length: 6.50”
  • Width: 1.28”

Trigger Talk

The LCR .357’s trigger feels surprisingly light. We think that’s a result of smoothness of pull and from the hybrid-rounded trigger face. What’s a hybrid trigger face you ask? Well the LCR’s trigger resembles a flat face trigger in terms of overall width of the face. However the corners are heavily rounded. There you have it.

Here’s how it felt right out of the box before any break-in: It was almost two stage in nature. A long and smooth pull with a point of barely detectable resistance with about 1/16″ remaining until the break. The last 1/16″ of pull had the smallest trace of grittiness, but this went away after about 100 rounds. The unofficial two-stage nature is a big personal preference issue, but we liked it.

Lot’s of folks talk about the “surprise break” but with any pistol we shoot with regularity, we know exactly when it’s going to fire. With that frame of reference, we liked the tactile sensation of knowing when the trigger was about to break. For slow, aimed fire, you can easily stage the trigger for release when your sight picture is just like you want. In rapid fire, the second stage point is not perceptible. This is neither a good or bad thing, simply an observation of how our evaluation model worked.

The Ammo Report – .357 Magnum and .38 Special

Ruger LCR .357 Magnum ammo and .38 Special ammo

We tested the LCR .357 with a variety of .357 Magnum and .38 Special ammo

Since the big hubbub over ultra-light .357 magnum revolvers seems to be related to recoil and the ability to actually shoot a .357 magnum load, we decided to test a variety of both .357 Magnum and .38 Special ammunition and capture both objective and subjective data from various shooters.

Remington UMC .357 Magnum 125gr JSP
This load was a beast that needed to be tamed. Clocking in at an average of 1,155 feet per second out of the 1.875 inch LCR barrel, we never did tame it though. Rated at 1,450 fps out of a test barrel, this 125 grain load was not only stout, but sharp. Did we mention it was aggressively sharp in the LCR? None of our test shooters wanted to try more than one cylinder full. None of us wanted to be on the other end either for that matter.

Hornady Critical Defense .357 Magnum 125gr Flex Tip
Surprise of the day. This new Critical Defense load from Hornady has more or less the same specs as the above mention Remington load – a 125 grain projectile humming along at a factory rated 1,500 fps. In our LCR, with its uber-short barrel, it clocked in at an average of 1,158 fps. A whopping 3 fps faster than the Remington UMC cartridge. However, the difference in perceived recoil in the LCR was noticeably less. In its literature about the new Critical Defense rounds, Hornady claims to offer reduced recoil through magic machinations like burn efficiency. We noticed it. Bottom line? The Hornady Critical Defense load is perfectly usable in this gun. While aggressive, its controllable. And fierce. See our ammunition test results here.

Cor-Bon .38 Special +P 110gr JHP
This had noticeable, but not unpleasant recoil along with a healthy blast factor. Would not be a bad carry load. It seemed genuinely mild in comparison to the .357 loads, although if we had shot this one first, it might have felt more aggressive.

Winchester Supreme .38 Special +P PDX1 130gr
Very soft shooting round. More of a push than a snap. We’re looking forward to doing a separate evaluation on the performance of this load, but in terms of shootability out of the LCR, it was perfectly manageable.

CCI .38 / .357 ShotShells
What else can you say? it shoots a boatload of tiny shot at man’s worst enemy – the snake.

.38 Special Handload (128gr Lead Round Nose Flat Point over 3.3 grains of Trail Boss)
We cooked this up in the man cave for the LCR’s ‘shoot for kicks and giggles’ load. It was in fact fun. A mild recoiling practice load, made even more so with the LCR’s polymer frame. it clocked in at an average of 665 feet per second. Wimpy? Yes. Totally fun plinking round? Yes. We had to lob it at distant targets though.

.357 Magnum Handload (127 grain Lead Round Nose Flat Point over 7.7 grains of Unique)
This turned out to be a great .357 magnum practice load. It definitely hit back in terms of recoil, so if you’re interested in practicing with at least a reasonable facsimile of recoil of full-power self-defense loads, this load is a good option. Averaging 1,175 feet per second out of the LCR, it yielded a power factor of just over 150 – just about the same as the Hornady Critical Defense load out of the this gun. While noticeably sharper than the Hornady load, this one was quite controllable in the Ruger. We wouldn’t want to shoot an entire Steel Challenge match with this combination though…

To Mag Or Not To Mag – That Is the Question…

Ruger LCR .357 Magnum with Hogue Tamer grip for recoil

See that squishy part of the grip? That turned out to be a big deal – in a good way.

It seems there are two schools of thought with respect to ultra-light .357 Magnum revolvers.

Team Globo-Gym loves them and is prepared to carry and shoot full power .357 Magnum loads in spite of the, ummm, mild discomfort.

Team Average Joe’s also likes them, but for a different reason. Team Average Joe’s says “hey, why not get the stronger .357 version and you can always carry .38 Special +P loads?” The thinking is that first, you have a more durable gun as it’s designed for magnum pressures, and second, that you always have the option of popping some .357 Magnum loads in there if you want.

With an all metal gun, we would sway towards the Team Average Joe’s train of thought. With the LCR, we’re going Globo-Gym and carrying .357 magnum loads in it. Because we can in this gun.

Our Gripe: It Seems There Are Seams

When we tested the Ruger LCP, one of the standout qualities was the attention to finish detail. It’s also a polymer pistol, but in the LCP, there are not detectable seams where sections are joined. This is especially important inside and outside the trigger guard. With aggressive loads, a sharp seam in the polymer tends to irritate the bejeepers out of your fingers as the gun recoils. Our evaluation LCR had seams. End of the world? No. But if we end up buying this one, we’ll take some sandpaper to the inside of the trigger guard to smooth things out a bit.

The Offhand Pilates Accuracy Test

Following in the ‘gun-riter’ tradition of testing mechanical accuracy by shooting at long range targets offhand, we consulted fitness guru Denise Austin to get some help with the proper Pilates-based offhand stance position. Unfortunately, Denise had a prior commitment filming a “Shootin’ to the Oldies” episode with Richard Simmons so we had to rely on our own accuracy testing protocol. For full details, check out our review of the Ruger LCP.  To summarize our findings, let’s just say that the LCR .357 is easily “minute of evil d00d” capable.

Closing Arguments

This is a nice gun. Our test model came with the standard ramped front sight and notch in frame rear sight. The front sight is pinned in place, not machined, so you can replace it with an XS Standard Dot. We’re going to do this next just for kicks. If you’re ordering one new, you can buy a version with the XS Standard Dot pre-installed.

One more totally random observation. There’s something about the finishes on both the cylinder and frame that makes it easier to clean than say a Smith and Wesson 442. The burny-crud just comes off really easily. We have no idea is this was a design goal or not, but we noticed it after a couple of range sessions. It will be interesting to see if this applies over time and lots more crud accumulation.

 

He said She said
OK so I was a little nervous to send some full house .357 loads downrange with this one. But I was pleasantly surprised. I lived to tell the tale. While we did not write about them since I did not get an accurate velocity reading, I made some 158 grain .357 loads to test and they were, to say the least, a handful. But physics ‘R physics and all. It’s a light gun. Find a good practice round and carry the big stuff for emergencies. Love that Hogue Tamer grip! Especially the finger grooves in the front – it makes all the difference in shooting the LCR. A minor detail that I noticed was the natural position for my trigger finger on the frame while in ‘ready’ position. The combination of grip and frame design left a very natural spot to park the trigger finger while not shooting. I shot both .357 and .38 Special loads in the LCR and personally preferred .38 Special +P rounds. Although shootable, the .357 magnums were just a bit too aggressive for my tastes. I bet they were aggressive for him also – he just won’t admit it.
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